Bail is money paid to the court to secure a defendant's appearance at future court proceedings. When the judge sets the bail amount, the defendant can pay it directly or with the help of a bail bond company. Once bail is paid—called posting bail—the defendant is released from custody and free to go. On the condition of the bond, the defendant must then appear in court or he or she forfeits the bond amount. Judges determine bail using many factors but will choose an amount that is likely to ensure the defendant's return.
The Factors That Come Into Play
Judges can use their discretion when setting bail. The judge will consider several factors when setting bail and may increase or lower bail as he or she sees fit. Those factors include:
The nature of the offense and the facts and circumstances of the crime. To release a criminal defendant back into the community, the judge must first consider the charges. Violent crimes or crimes against persons may result in a higher bail amount than a victimless crime. If the judge believes the defendant is an active threat to society, the bail amount will reflect that. In some cases, the judge will not set a bail, and the defendant will be ineligible for release.
The defendant's prior criminal history. If the defendant has priorable offenses, the judge may take that as an indicator of the defendant's bad faith and may set the bail higher than he or she normally would. Similarly, the defendant is likely to face harsher penalties if convicted of a second offense.
The defendant's overall conduct. Does the defendant have a history of warrants or failure to appear? If so, the bail amount will probably reflect it. The judge will view this type of conduct as a sign that history may repeat itself, and the bail will be set accordingly.
The defendant's role in the community. If the defendant has a stable job, a family to care for, and is involved in his or her church, the judge may view these factors as indicative of the likelihood he or she will dutifully appear in court. In light of these factors, the defendant will probably stick around to attend to his or her commitments.
The defendant's current status as an offender. If the defendant is on parole, probation, or is otherwise still under supervision for a prior criminal offense, the bail amount will reflect those factors. In some cases, the defendant will be ineligible for release because of a parole or probation violation, and the judge will not set a bail.
The defendant's financial state. If the defendant is facing charges such as robbery or drug sales, the judge may use those factors to increase bail. For example, if the defendant reaped $1,000,000 from drug sales, the judge will make sure the bail reflects that financial surplus.
Judges may also be subject to certain rules and guidelines for setting bail and many rely on past precedent—the bail past judges have set in similar circumstances—when deciding. When a defendant has a high flight risk, the judge may not even set bail or set bail at a very high amount to ensure the defendant appears in court. For example, if the defendant skipped town on bail before, the judge may not give the defendant another chance.
The point of bail is to set an amount high enough to make it likely the defendant will return to court. Unfortunately, this requires the judge consider factors like the defendant's ability to pay and what is at stake. Bail bond companies are standing by to help defendants post the amount they need so they can be released. It is easier to retain an attorney and prepare for your arraignment if you are not in jail, so posting bail can bring you an advantage in your case. If you've been arrested and have questions about bail, you should talk to an experienced Tulare criminal defense attorney. An attorney might be able to get your bail amount lowered and can help you secure a bail bond.
If you are facing criminal charges in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you fight your charges and clear your name. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.